The Baptist Pillar © Brandon Bible Baptist Church 1992-Present www.baptistpillar.com
"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
Norman H. Wells
From The Church That Jesus Loved, 1973 (Chapter 22)
From the very beginning of my Christian life I was taught that the four basic requirements of Scriptural baptism were:
1. Proper Candidate
2. Proper Motive
3. Proper Mode
4. Proper Administrator
After I was called to preach and attended the seminary I found these same four requirements were taught as constituting Scriptural baptism. In my own private study this conviction has deepened over the years. The only candidate for Scriptural baptism is a born again believer.
The only motive is that the believer may present an outward picture of an inward work of Grace. By his baptism he is able to picture that like as Christ died, was buried and rose again he also by faith in Christ has died and was buried and has risen to walk in the newness of life. The believer is baptized because he is saved, not to get saved.
The only mode of baptism is immersion in water of the believer.
The only proper administrator of baptism is a local, Scriptural Baptist church.
There never has, I suppose, been any real disagreement among fundamental Baptist concerning the first three of these requirements. There is, however, considerable disagreement concerning the fourth. Currently the question of who has the authority to baptize is raging with renewed vigor. It is time, I believe, to restate our position.
We believe that only a real, New Testament, Baptist church has the authority to baptize. If this is denied the question then arises as to who does have the authority — it must be somewhere. Several possible answers are suggested.
First, there are those who state that the matter of a proper authority for baptism is not important. As long as the candidate, motive, and mode are right it doesn't matter who does the baptizing.
Second, there are those who believe that as long as the candidate had a proper understanding his baptism is valid regardless of the administrator.
Third, there are those who state that any church, regardless of creed, can baptize as long as it is by immersion.
Fourth, there are those who believe that any organization calling itself Baptist, regardless of what it believes, can administer Scriptural baptism.
Fifth, there are those who believe an ordained preacher has the authority to baptize.
Sixth, there are those who believe that any Christian has the authority to baptize a believer.
There are probably many variations and combinations of the above stated propositions but I believe basically, at least, they give an accurate presentation of the matter. At first glance it seems like an unsolvable maze of contradicting claims. However it might not be as difficult as it seems. It is as simple as this. I am going to present and prove four arguments that will, I believe, help clear the air.
First, I want to establish that the authority to baptize could not rest in each Christian. This would eliminate number six listed above.
Second, I want to establish that the authority to baptize could not rest in each ordained preacher. This eliminates number five listed above.
Third, I want to establish the fact that the authority to baptize rests in the local church.
Fourth, I want to establish the fact that only one true, local church is in existence, and that it is the true, New Testament Baptist church. This would eliminate numbers one, two, three, and four given above and will establish my argument.
Now, to my first proposition stating that the authority to baptize could not rest in each Christian. Each individual Christian has personal responsibilities that are his and his alone! For instance, each Christian is expected to be baptized and to identify himself with a church. He is expected to lead a clean, separate life, to be a witness, to win souls, to tithe, to pray, to study God's Word, etc. All these are his personal responsibilities that he and he alone must meet. No one else can do them for him — they are his personal responsibilities.
Then there are responsibilities that Christians have collectively — as a church. As a church they are to receive and dispense the tithes and offerings of God's people as God directs. As a church they are to call and ordain pastors and deacons. As a church they are to send out missionaries around the world. As a church they are to exercise discipline. As a church they are to maintain facilities for teaching and preaching. They are to glorify Christ in all ages.
It is ridiculous to think of an individual Christian assuming the responsibilities of the church! Does any Christian have the personal authority to receive the tithes and offerings? Does each Christian call and ordain his own pastor or deacon? Does each Christian have the authority to exercise discipline?
On the other hand, it is just as ridiculous to think of the church assuming the responsibilities of the individual Christian. Can the church do the Christian's praying? His tithing? His studying? His living?
It seems obvious that each Christian has his personal responsibilities involving those things that are individually his and that any business involving Christians collectively is church responsibility.
Into which of these classes does baptism belong? It is ridiculous to think of each Christian assuming to speak for Christian's collectively in accepting, candidates for baptism. This would result in the same wild confusion as if each Christian collected the tithes on his own, administered discipline, etc. This could not be! The authority must rest in the church.
Secondly, we want to establish the fact that the authority to baptize does not rest in each ordained preacher. In establishing this all the arguments given to establish the fact that each individual Christian does not have the authority to baptize can be applied to preachers or deacons. An ordained preacher does not have the authority to receive the tithes and offerings, to administer discipline, call and ordain pastors, etc. Neither does he have the authority to baptize. The duties of the pastor are listed many times, but never is this authority placed in his hands. Thus we see that the great commission (Matt. 28:18-20) could not have been given to individual Christians as such, nor to individual preachers but to each individual church.
Third, I am to establish the fact that the authority to baptize rests in the local church. As we have seen it is impossible for each Christian to speak for Christians collectively. Neither has the authority. Where, then, is the authority? God only left one organization on earth to carry out His work and that is the local church. It is a reasonable thing, after accepting this fact, to understand that this organization, the local church, is the only vehicle on earth that has the authority to speak for Christians collectively. This has to be the organization that possesses the authority to baptize — there is no place else!
I do not have the time, space, or inclination at this time, to dispute the idea of a universal, invisible church of which all Christians are members. I am only interested at this writing in the fundamental group who are not contaminated with this damnable heresy! Thus we all understand that when we say the authority to baptize rests in the church we mean the local, visible church because there is no other kind!
The fourth proposition I am to establish is that the true New Testament, local church is a Baptist church. It is just as simple as this. We believe that the church was established in the days of Christ's sojourn upon the earth, that the work of its construction began with the material prepared by John the Baptist and that the gates of hell have not, nor ever shall prevail against it. It lived the day it was established by Christ. It has always continued to live and it lives today. These are today, the people called Baptists.
I would not be so foolish as to deny that there are those who today carry the name Baptist who have long since forfeited their right to this great name. This does not alter the truth.
Certainly we are not saying that only Baptists are saved. Anyone who hears the Gospel, repents, and by faith accepts Jesus Christ as Savior is saved. This does not alter the truth concerning baptism.
The Central Baptist Church has published a tract that I wrote on "Baptism." In this tract, I believe the fact is established that true Scriptural baptism must portray several things. For instance, true Scriptural baptism must picture:
1. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
2. The gospel.
3. Salvation by grace.
4. The results of Salvation in the believer's life.
5. Eternal security.
It is our earnest conviction that only true Baptist churches, clinging to the historical Baptist position, are administering Baptism.